(Source: CD/Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News)

“Fraternity is not a trend or a fashion… but the result of concrete acts”. Thus reflected Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin during the presentation of Pope Francis’ new encyclical Fratelli tutti on Sunday morning. He said the new encyclical “outlines a culture of fraternity to be applied in international relations”.


If this culture is so implemented, the cardinal said it will serve as a reminder of the “the integration between countries, the primacy of rules over force, [of] economic development and cooperation and, above all, [of] the use of dialogue, seen not as an anaesthetic or an occasional ‘band-aid’, but as a weapon with a destructive potential far superior to any other armament”.

It is dialogue, the cardinal continued, that “destroys the barriers in the heart and mind, opens up spaces for forgiveness, and promotes reconciliation”.

Its absence is what allows international relations “to degenerate or rely on the heavy hand of power, allowing opposition and force to prevail”.

Dialogue, Parolin said, does not usually make the headlines. Rather, as Fratelli tutti notes, it “quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine” (198).

“Dialogue is a vision that progresses and endures over time. Dialogue requires patience and edges close to martyrdom. This is why the encyclical refers to dialogue as an instrument of fraternity, which makes those who dialogue different from those ‘people holding important social positions yet lacking in real concern for the common good, who do not hold in their hearts the common good’ (Fratelli tutti, 63)”.

Ascending path

Fraternity follows an upward trajectory, Cardinal Parolin explained. It begins with the individual, but is not the same thing as “individual maturity, reserved exclusively for those who share the same path”.

“According to the encyclical, the objective is an ascending path driven by that healthy subsidiarity which starts from the individual and expands to encompass the family, then social and state dimensions, all the way to the international community”.

If this path is undertaken, fraternity “can contribute to the renewal of principles guiding international life”, the cardinal noted.

The negative aspects of globalisation are present in our world today, and the pandemic has exposed them ever more clearly, Parolin explained.

Fundamentally, the pandemic has shown what is lacking: “that there is an inability to act all together. Although we are hyper-connected, there is a fragmentation which makes it more difficult to solve problems affecting us all” (Fratelli tutti, 7).

Common good

There is an “obvious contradiction between the common good” and national interests, Cardinal Parolin said. Citing the encyclical (165), he said this means that “the multitude of the abandoned remain at the mercy of the possible good will of some”. Fraternity kicks in an opposing force:

“It introduces the idea of general interests, those capable of forming a true solidarity and of changing not only the structure of the international community but also the dynamics of relationships within it”.

With the adoption of this vision, “the sovereignty and independence of each State cease to be absolutes” and are subject to “the sovereignty of law, knowing that justice is a prerequisite for achieving the ideal of universal brotherhood” (173), Parolin highlighted.

Pope Francis’s view of fraternity is the culture that allows the “legitimately expressed common will” to be respected, the cardinal explained.

Thus, fraternity facilitates the resolution of conflicts through diplomacy and negotiation through multilateral organisms. Both the common good and the weakest nations would therefore be protected (Fratelli tutti, 174) because fraternity “replaces the centralisation of powers with a collegial function”, Parolin stressed.

Replacing paradigms

Cardinal Parolin then focused on how this fraternal culture can gradually replace paradigms “that no longer have the capacity to grapple with the challenges and needs that the international community meets on its current journey”.

Quoting the new encyclical, the cardinal said change is a process “crafted above all by peoples; each individual can act as an effective leaven by the way he or she lives each day. Great changes are not produced behind desks or in offices” (Fratelli tutti, 231).

Parolin also noted that saying we are brothers and sisters or making “social friendship” a personal style of life is not enough.

True conversion “revolves around the category of fraternal love, which beyond all belonging, even identity, is capable of concretely realising itself in the one ‘who has become a neighbour’ (Fratelli tutti, 81)”. Thus the model presented to us in the encylical, the Good Samaritan.

Cardinal Parolin concluded his presentation by saying that “fraternity proposes the transformation of international life from mere co-existence to a dimension based on that common sense of ‘humanity’”.

The human family itself is fraternity’s “protagonist”, he said. Yet, the vision of fraternity is “far removed from universalism or abstract sharing, as [in] certain degenerations of globalisation”.

“Through the culture of fraternity, Pope Francis calls each and every one to love the other people, the other nation, as one’s own, and thus to build relationships, rules and institutions, while abandoning the illusions of power, isolation, closed visions, selfish and partisan actions – because ‘the simple sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for all humanity’ (Fratelli tutti, 105).

Other highlights from the official presentation of the Pope’s new encyclical

Along with Cardinal Parolin, several other people spoke during the presentation of Fratelli tutti this morning in the new Synod Hall in the Vatican.

“An appeal to concord to a world in discord”

– Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Secretary General for the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity

“Although I had accompanied the Pope and the Imam [of Al-Azhar] in the various stages of the journey of human fraternity over the last decade, when I read this encyclical on fraternity and social friendship, I identified a refined taste, an incisive sensibility and an ability to express the themes of human fraternity to the whole world.

“It is an appeal to concord to a world in discord, as well as a clear message in favour of both individual and collective harmony with the laws of the universe, the world and life.

This notion relies on a clear reasoning that is rooted in the truth and is practicable in real life and in the real world.

“As a young Muslim scholar of Shari’a (law), Islam and its sciences, I find myself – with much love and enthusiasm – in agreement with the Pope, and I share every word he has written in the encyclical. I follow, with satisfaction and hope, all his proposals put forward in a spirit of concern for the rebirth of human fraternity”.

“A devastating challenge to our ecological, political, economic and social life”

Professor Anna Rowlands, Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, University of Durham (UK)

“The encyclical letter Fratelli tutti is about love and attention – the kind of attention that brings a broken and bleeding world back to health. It is a social meditation on the Good Samaritan, who recognises love and attention as the preeminent law, and models for us creative social friendship. Pope Francis asks us to gaze at the world similarly, such that we come to see the basic, indispensable relation of all things and people, near and far.

“In its simplicity of call, Fratelli tutti is a devastating challenge to our ecological, political, economic and social life. But above all it is a proclamation of an ineradicable, joyful truth, presented here as a wellspring for a fatigued world.

“The naming of God as our kin, and ourselves as kin and kind in this image, is love-language. There are other ways of naming God. But the message Pope Francis wishes us to hear for this moment is that we are made fully human by what draws us beyond ourselves.

“What makes this possible is a divine love, open to all, that births, bonds, bridges and endlessly renews. This love cannot be erased or disposed of, and it is the basis of Pope Francis’s call to us with St Francis’s words of loving attention: Fratelli tutti…”

“True dreams for a global world that has switched off the beacons of the great values and ideals”

– Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community and professor of contemporary history

“The encyclical shows us that we are all guardians of peace. Institutions have the task to reawaken the ‘architecture of peace’. However, we, normal people, cannot remain on the sidelines.

“The art of peace is everybody’s task: we must engage every day in daring and creative rebellion against war. If many can make war, all can be artisans of peace.

“Hence the role of religions. The Pope refers to the dialogue among religions and the encounter with Imam Al-Tayyeb, when they stated: ‘Religions must never incite war…’. If they do, they abuse and abandon their true role.

“As I read Fratelli tutti, I see not only a condemnation of war, but also the hope that peace is possible. I remembered the invitation of John Paul II when he said together with other religious leaders in Assisi, on a glorious day back in 1986: ‘Peace awaits its prophets… its builders… peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists… it comes about in a thousand little acts in daily life.’ The artisans of peace are men and women of fraternity.

“Pope Francis proposes true dreams to the global world that has switched off the beacons of the great values and ideals. I recall just one, not the least one of them but the one everything else depends upon: peace”.

Oxygen for dialogue

– Cardinal Miguel Ayuso, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

“I cannot read the encyclical without emotion, especially chapter eight, ‘Religions at the service of fraternity in our world’. I have collaborated with Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate, that is, for almost eight years now. I can attest to how much work has been done, even amid undeniable difficulties, including the most recent one, the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

“Interreligious dialogue is truly at the heart of the reflections and actions of Pope Francis. In fact, as Fratelli tutti states, ‘The effort to seek God with a sincere heart, provided it is never sullied by ideological or self-serving aims, helps us recognise one another as travelling companions, truly brothers and sisters’ (Fratelli tutti, 274).

“In seeing respect and friendship as two fundamental attitudes, Pope Francis has opened another door, so that the oxygen of fraternity can enter into the dialogue between persons of different religious traditions, between believers and non-believers, and among all persons of good will.

“Let us again give thanks to Pope Francis because Fratelli tutti makes us all feel closer to the love of Christ and the Church, and it encourages us to place ourselves, all together, at the service of the fraternity of this world”.

Read Novena’s summary of the Pope’s new encyclical:

In ‘Fratelli tutti’, Pope sets out vision for new world order post-COVID beyond nationalism, capitalism


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.